It is regarded as the pinnacle of the game of Rugby League, and now, given that they have the funds to make a play for it, Channel Seven is eager to poach the Origin clashes from Channel Nine, as the new TV Rights deal is discussed.
Whilst Seven, who are heavily cashed up, have plans to get Friday Night Football too, they see the Origin series as a more realistic target for them at this stage.
With the new TV rights deal set to commence in 2013, all major networks in Seven, Nine and Ten are in the mix to discuss showing league on their respective networks.
Despite rumours about the process in place, NRL Chief Executive David Gallop insists that no bidding will take place, until the Independent Commission is up and running.
“Sports television rights are the last of the great blood sports,” an NRL spokesman said.
“We are all looking forward to them because they will be so good for the game.”
Darren Lockyer, Broncos Skipper believes that an injection of steady cash flow can have Rugby League back in the game for the war on talent.
“Rugby league should be on the cusp of one day turning the tables on the AFL and rugby union codes which have the revenue to attract some of our best players,” he said.
“If the NRL’s next television rights deal is done right and is reflective of the audience numbers the competition, as well as our strong representative football component, habitually draw, it won’t be a case of our players going to other codes,” Lockyer said.
“Potentially stars from other codes would come to the NRL because that is where the rewards would be. The Parramatta-Cowboys game two weeks ago attracted the biggest pay television audience yet by a league, AFL or union game. If the rights increase to reflect the strength of our game in the market, league would be so strong and it would be there on merit.
“Sonny Bill Williams back in the NRL … who wouldn’t stop to watch him on the box? Ma’a Nonu, I’m told, was pretty close to signing with the Wests Tigers at one stage before the New Zealand Rugby Union secured him.
“Quade Cooper, suggested in recent times as an NRL target, would bring more eyes to our competition.”
Rugby League is the most watched sport on television by viewers, with an aggregate audience of 128.5 million last year, tuning into games across the NRL season.
“The rugby league rights came cheap last time and Seven’s owner Kerry Stokes is better positioned than anyone to have a big go at a part of the package such as Origin,” an industry source said.
“Channel 9 has a massive investment in next year’s Olympics, Ten haven’t got much money.
“Seven are the only ones with big cash reserves. It will be an ego thing with Stokes.”